Loonie's new plunge extends series of 11-year lows

TORONTO -- The Canadian dollar has plunged below 72 cents US for the first time since May 2004, extending a series of 11-year lows set in recent weeks.

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With hours left before the official end of the loonie's trading day, it was trading at 71.66 cents US, down 0.88 or nearly nine-tenths of a U.S. cent from Wednesday's close.

Canada's currency has been affected by a number of factors, many related to the strength of the American dollar as well as weak global market conditions for key exports such as oil, gas and other commodities.

The Federal Reserve's decision to finally raise key U.S. interest rates on Wednesday, after months of signals that an increase was coming, helped push up the American dollar against the British pound, Japanese yen, Australian dollar and the euro.

On equity markets, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 124.29 points at 13,041.79, the Dow Jones average of 30 stocks was down 118.16 points at 17,630.93 and the broader S&P 500 index declined 16.32 points to 2,056.75. The Nasdaq lost 28.52 points to 5,042.61.

On the commodity markets, the February gold contract fell $25.60 to US$1,051.20 an ounce, the January crude contract was down 57 cents at US$34.95 per barrel and the January contract for natural gas was down one cent at US$1.78.



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